March 22, 2018 Chapel Service — Dr. Edward T. Welch

Posted On March 26, 2018

Edward T Welch
“Shame Dismissed in a Touch
—Luke 8:43-48

Dr. Edward T. Welch is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF. Dr. Welch has been counseling for over thirty years and has written many books and articles on biblical counseling.




It is a pleasure to be here for all kinds of reasons. Small reasons, this is perfect weather, absolutely perfect weather. Some of you look surprised, would you prefer 90 degrees and 90% humidity? This is perfect weather. It’s also a pleasure to hear your chorale and these [sopranic] angels that came in so beautifully at the end. Thank you, thank you so much for the way you minister to us.

I have a question for you. Locate, try to locate shame in your own life. What comes to mind? What are the images that it evokes? What kind of descriptions might you, might you attach to whatever experiences that you can encounter? The experience of shame is, far as I can tell, it seems to be somewhat crowded out of the church where guilt and justification tend to take a lot of room. Meanwhile shame which is, far as I can tell, is the more present experience that is identified in Scripture. Probably at a ratio of 10-1, the Scripture talks more of shame than it does guilt. Yet at the same time, this is an experience that in your era is receiving the attention it deserves. So, try to locate it and what kind of visions or descriptions does it evoke?

We’ll just take a couple from the Scripture as we trace shame out you encounter it, perhaps, first in the image of nakedness. This sense of you are not okay and other people can see you, and somehow you are different than everyone else. The next image is a kind of image of not belonging, of being cast out; where others are in but you are not. The third image would be the image of being clean or unclean. And, the experience of being unclean leaves you farther from the Lord and closer to death. Those would be three of the prominent images, some of the words that might be familiar to us: “you are unacceptable.” Somehow, even knowing what Christ has done, there still is a sense of being unacceptable to God but also to others. Unlovable might be another word that could capture it. We hear wonderful preaching on justification by faith and we move into the courtroom and we are proclaimed as those who are no longer under condemnation, but then we go out into the world and we still feel disgusting. That’s the experience that I want to consider with you briefly. And, here is, I think, something very important that I think Scripture does with the experience of shame. Certainly we can experience shame because of what we have done. Especially there’s certain kinds of sins that, (all sin is significant and serious), but sins where we’re pretty sure everyone else is doing them, they don’t attach themselves to shame. It’s those sins that we see in our own hearts or in our own behaviours that if somebody found out about them we would be horrified, we would experience that sense of nakedness. That’s one feature of shame. But here, is one of the places where we see Scriptures genius in understanding the human condition. Shame is also a consequence of things that have been done to you. It’s not simply what you have done, it is also what has been done against you. You can become unclean because of what you’ve done. You can become unclean because of your associations with those that are unclean. And, it’s that particular feature of shame that I think is especially important for us to consider in this decade. Shame because of what has been done against us.

We’re in Luke 8. Luke 7 and 8 tends to be crammed with shame and Jesus speaking about outcasts and speaking to outcasts. When He’s asked about His ministry, His ministry is exclusively to the outcasts; the blind, to those who seem to be under some special reproach in the New Testament period. The blind, the unclean leper, they are His people. The poor, theses are the ones who are going to hear the good news of Christ. And, the way Scripture so often writes the matters that are wrong, it, if you feel as though you are in the “in crowd,” if you feel like you have succeeded, there is a sense where the ministry of Jesus is going to feel like it is far from you. Because, it is focused especially on those who are the outcasts. These are Jesus’ people. Luke is cramming a number of stories together in Luke 7 and Luke 8. This particular passage in Luke 8 is a special invitation to those who know what it’s like to feel naked and unclean and like an outcast because they had been treated as if they were outcasts. They have been cursed by those who were called to bless. They were unloved by those who were called to love. They were sinned against especially in sexualized ways. And as a result, somehow connected to an oppressor and brought a little bit closer to death itself. The special invitation of this passage is to those who are familiar with shame, not because of what they had done, but because of what had been done to them. This is Luke 8; you know this passage well, of course.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

The backstory of course, 12 years this woman had this–nothing that she did, but she experienced this uncleanness. She had gone to quack physicians for those 12 years and was destitute. If she had a family, she certainly does not have a family now because you don’t have chronically unclean people in your presence because it renders you unclean yourself. Yet, she, in the Mark version of this it says, “she heard the reports,” she heard the reports. She heard the reports of one of mercy and one of power who seemed to make these straight lines to the outcasts. Who ate–his people were the tax collectors and the sinners (everybody is a sinner) those people who were known by their sins. Their sins were somewhat flagrant and in public, different perhaps than yours or mine. She heard the reports and she was living in a culture of success and achievement and resumes; very similar to our own. And the leaders touted the resumes and their successes, but here was one who was different and so she began to draw near. We anticipate that it wasn’t that hard for her to draw near; everybody was pressing  around Jesus, but you don’t want to be touched by an unclean person you’re going to be be contaminated yourself, so most likely she had some sort of line to get to Him.

Now at this point, for those who are familiar with shame that has been done against them, you might need another invitation. Because, the nature of shame is that you can believe good things for other persons, you believe the promises of God, the words of God are relevant to you, but, they are not relevant to the person who has experienced shame. So, so here’s a story that is too good to be true, which indicates that it’s part of the evidence that this is of divine origin. No human being could make up a Messiah whose people would be such outcasts. So, the text invites you again to come in to this story and inhabit it and make it your own.

Very simple, she touched Jesus and Jesus healed her. But, the text is going somewhat slowly with this particular story. Even though it’s a short story, it’s going somewhat slowly and it’s drawing our attention to what actually happened. And, what actually happened goes something like this, as you know. Where the Holy One, He descends. But nobody could anticipate the depths to which He would descend. He descended to those who were the disgraced. He descended all the way to them and He became to their people and they became His people. And, here’s this dramatic descent of the Holy One into a certain disgrace. And, then there was a transaction that took place. And, we’re so much more familiar with these kinds of transactions in our human experiences. When you’re married there’s a participation in the other person. You somehow inherit, they bring whatever baggage they have both good and ill with them. And, it becomes the other person’s things and, in a sense, become our own.

So, we’re familiar with this kind of transaction in Scripture and this indeed is a profound transaction. Where in that touch, in that touch, as Jesus identifies a moment later, His glory, His power, the one who with word brings life to creation, His power, His life is given to this woman. And, she is healed. Meanwhile, shame and the disgrace of shame, it can’t simply vanish. Something has to be done with it. It’s not a concept, it’s a reality. And, something has to be done to weaken that particular grip of death. And, what Jesus does is, as we’ve already seen, He’s walking through the world, inviting, absorbing, all the disgrace that He can. And, His very crucifixion will be identified as not just a painful crucifixion but an utterly shameful, disgraceful period going up to the crucifixion as He takes on the guilt and the shame and the uncleanness of His people. This is the story that lies just in the background. Now, the question, of course, is how did this happen? It seems as though it happened in a touch. But, it had to be more than a touch because everybody was pressing in on Jesus. The text is very clear on this. So, a question then is, this touch is a fairly significant matter, what does it mean to touch Him? What does it mean for us to touch Him? Well, if we’re following the text, it means that we have heard the report and He is contrary, perhaps, than what we anticipated. That His people are the outcasts. We’ve heard the report and we have heard His invitation. We have heard the call to come that is plentiful throughout Scripture. So, we have heard that. And, in response to Him, there’s been a certain faith already, we come.

What is the touch, though, what is the touch? It’s faith, what she did was different from the other touches Jesus received. Then, I guess, the question is how would you describe faith? Perhaps, the most simple way to do that would be: faith is I need what only Jesus can provide. Or to make it even shorter: I need Jesus. That’s what the touch meant. Life can only be found in Him and I trust Him. I put myself in Him. It wasn’t the touch that was so significant, what is it, in Psalms it talks about those who look to Him are glorious. Their faces are never covered with shame. So, faith there is simply looking toward Jesus rather than to physicians or to whoever else we’re hoping will cure the ails, body and soul. It turns on this woman’s simple response of faith, Jesus I need you.

The passage goes on, of course and Jesus chooses to no longer make her anonymous. Isn’t that wonderful? A woman who wanted to not be seen, Jesus brings her into the public. And then, in this declaration that is reminiscent of the disciples in the boat, when they witnessed that the one who was with them was God Himself, it was with a word could still the seas and they were overcome with fear; it was reminiscent of that experience, she knows who Jesus is. She knows that He is the one who has invited the unclean and He is God Himself. He is the holy one and when you encounter the holy one close up, typically what people have done in Scripture is they bow down before them and they are overcome with His very presence. And, this is what she did in this very public display. And then, Jesus identifies her as a woman of faith and it’s because you have needed Jesus above all else there has been the transaction that has taken place.

What a beautiful story. By the way, if you are familiar with shame, and some of you no doubt are—Scripture does this as well— come back to the story, come back. You’re starting to think that maybe this is too good to be true and that it’s relevant to other people but it’s not relevant to you. This is Jesus speaking to those who are familiar with being unclean and outcasts and couldn’t imagine good news would be spoken to them. And, this is a woman who is now declared as a hero of the faith. Whenever you see faith attached to somebody in the gospels, this is a hero. This is a person we want to emulate in some way. Who would have thought an outcast woman-another way to identify an outcast is they are nothing. They’re simply big zeros. You are indifferent, they are worthless. Here’s an outcast woman who comes and touches Him and now she is identified by Jesus, her profession of faith is public for even us to see and then she becomes a heroine of the early church. Who would have thought? All of the sudden we are now attracted to her. Who would have thought? This is the ways of the kingdom that those who are on the outs are somehow brought in.

Now, there are two things that I would like you to do with this. One is what you do with it every time you go into the Word, and what is very clear in your school’s mission, that you want to be amazed at who your God in Christ is. You simply want to be amazed. And, you want your faith to be built up, your confidence in Him to be built up where you yourself hear this call to come near to Him, to draw near to Him, and you yourself are inclined to touch Him by simply saying: “Jesus I need you.” So, certainly that’s prominent for us in this particular text.

Second thing as well though, I work as a Christian counselor, Biblical counselor, where I hope that everything I’m doing it rises out of Scripture. That doesn’t discount studies on the brain and things like that. But, the structure of what I do, I want it to all be identified in Scripture itself. I’ve been a counselor for a long time and I’ve encountered many different problems. Certainly I have encountered, often times, the experience of shame. And, perhaps it’s important for you to understand that as you would anticipate, I have never encountered a personal human problem, a marital human problem, a family human problem, or a problem within those that I’ve had opportunities to minister to that wasn’t most profoundly addressed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all its ramifications including this particular ramification for those who experience shame because of what has been done to them. I think that’s important for you to understand. Perhaps the response there is, “who are we?” Who are we that we would be given these very words of God that go to the depth of the human condition? We are surrounded right now by a movement that is sometimes being identified as “me too” and women who have lived with a shame—being unclean because of things that have been done to them for years and years and years and suffering under it. And, as they began to hear some brave souls begin to speak of their victimization and their own uncleanness publicly, it draws them out. Shame does not want to be alone, it feels so utterly isolated. And so, we see this mass movement throughout the world of women, and not men quite yet, but women who have spoken of their shame, which is a good step. But, speaking about your shame, it in itself does not give you hope. Something has to be done with our shame, and who are we that we would know of this transaction identified in Luke 8 that we also have experienced? I want you to know that what you receive in Scripture is what the world needs, as you know. But in the sense that you can identify me as a person who has seen so many struggles in the human condition, and have always seen the Gospel of Christ to go profoundly deeper than anything else outside of Scripture could possibly do. Let your hearts be encouraged this morning, let me pray.

Transcripts are lightly edited.